Five-star South Carolina football commit Zacch Pickens sat in front of an Under Armour backdrop Thursday morning, ready to receive his All-American jersey in T.L. Hanna High School weight room. He was flanked by graphics of NFL stars Leonard Fournette and Julio Jones. Beyond them, he had his high school teammates in the gallery.
But next to him, he had someone more important flanking him: his mother, Felicia Harris
“It’s a huge honor,” Pickens said of having his mom by his side. “I respect my mom. I’d do everything I can for my mom, and I’m glad she’s here.
“(She’s) been very important. I’ve tried a lot do a lot of things without her, but it’s hard.”
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Pickens, a five-star recruit, is one of 90 players going to the Under Armour game and got his jersey during a ceremony at his school. His coach, Jeff Herron, introduced him by saying it takes a village to raise a young man, and delivered a hefty helping of credit to Harris.
Moments after her son got his jersey, she was handed an award as a person important in his life. She admitted she was shocked when she got the small honor, but mostly focused on what she felt about the day.
“I’m super duper proud,” Harris said. “I would’ve never imagined this happening. I’m just proud of him. He’s a good kid. I can’t complain. I’m excited.”
She made sure to credit the Hanna coaches for helping her keep him on the right path.
“I’m a single parent, mom, so I depend on the coaches to have my back on certain things,” Harris said. “Make sure anything he’s missing or slipping in class or whatever, got my back. I truly say they have my back 1,000 percent.”
They, in turn, credited her for acting as a team mom of sorts.
“Miss Felecia has done a great job with him,” Herron said. “She’s raised him pretty much by herself, I guess. He is such a good kid because she is such a good lady. She’s taught him right and wrong and to be humble and all those things.
“I was talking to coach (Will) Muschamp the other night. He came to our game and he talked about how good she had been during the recruiting process, that wasn’t typical for a recruit’s mother. But that’s the kind of family they are.”
The coach added the level-headed Pickens and his mother never let the recruiting process get to him, never bought the hype like many athletes can. Harris said he’s always been a quiet kid, and he hasn’t changed much as a person through his high school years.
Herron took over before Pickens’ junior season, and the team is 20-1 since then.
The 6-foot-5, 268-pound defensive lineman is one of the crown jewels of South Carolina’s recruiting class. The team’s first five-star since Jadeveon Clowney in 2011, he’s the No. 17 player in the country according to the 247 Sports composite rankings, tops at his position and in the state.
This season, Pickens hasn’t put up dominant rushing stats, but supplied a different sort of strong numbers. As a defensive lineman, he’s leading the Yellow Jackets with 52 tackles, plus three sacks, despite facing double- and triple-teams on most plays. That’s for a defense allowing 11.5 points per game.
He’s also taken a role in the team’s double-wing offense, getting snaps at fullback and running for 401 yards and 12 touchdowns on 42 carries (he’s second on the team in rushing).